Monday, December 19, 2011

Being mistaken for a local in New York City

Despite the existence of a New York State being the source of constant confusion for white Melburnians, their love for New York City continues unabated. However, the non-New York City parts of America hold little interest to Melbourne white people, with back-to-back Bush presidencies appearing to have neutralised the broad popularity of Kerouac's On the Road. In fact, the longest a white Melburnian has been known to tolerate a non-New York City part of the USA was a four hour layover at LAX in 2009. Even though the Aussie dollar is making a parody of parity by hitting $1.10 against the Greenback earlier this year, white Melburnians will only visit American places that are just like Fitzroy, only cooler. If North America was Chapel street, New York City would be the Windsor end.

In order to exchange your travel stories for cultural capital back home, you need to visit places that have the right balance between notoriety and obscurity. Telling people you went to Swaziland will mean nothing to most white Melburnians. On the other hand, saying you went to the Netherlands will only mean you get to listen to stories from people who were there five years before you. This is why being mistaken for a local in New York City is so important to Melbourne white people! This will be the one story they always tell. Long after they realise how naive it sounds to say 'New Yorkers talk just like they do in the movies'(!), the time they were mistaken for a local in New York City will be rehashed again and again.

But the problem of loving New York is that every other tourist also loves New York, sometimes just as much as you do! Right now your Mum is remembering her New York shopping trips to Macy's and Bloomingdale's - she even thinks these shops can't be found anywhere else. Meanwhile, your brother is in the midst of a Jay Z phase and is planning a trip to Times Square. Walking past RMIT at lunch, you just heard some First Years discussing their experiences in a Manhattan bagel shop and how the guy behind the counter was full looking at them. So how do you position your experience in New York as superior? Just follow the subtle tricks used by White Melburnians.

The first trick is to never mention how you thought New Yorkers would comment on your Australian accent. The streets of New York are awash with foreign accents, just like Melbourne. Aside from being mistaken for South African or British, there really isn't any difference having an Australian accent in New York as there is in Melbourne. Secondly, you should rave about the burritos and other Mexican food, but be careful to only frame the price as exotic. Thirdly, spend most of your time in Brooklyn.

The trip to Brooklyn is like a pilgrimage, but instead of paying respects to a God, white Melburnians go to worship trendier versions of themselves. Hedge your trip to Brooklyn against all of the fashion mistakes you have ever made and are yet to make. Think of the trip as a form of insurance, collateral or credentialing. Maybe you used to go to raves or have a Chinese character tattoo. Maybe you're worried that your current look will soon be out of date. The shame of these mistakes will be lessened if you have been to New York because New York never goes out of style. For example, the long beards that make white Melburnian men look like they're impersonating the Federal member for Leichhardt at the turn of the century and the short hair on white Melburnian women that is reminiscent of the 1993 year 12 class at De La Salle will eventually be subjected to devastating critique. Thus those soon-to-be embarrassing Facebook photos must be scattered amongst pics of house parties in Brooklyn. It used to be okay to make fun of out-of-date fashion even when you used to sport it yourself, but now online photo albums preserve your mistakes for eternity. Remember: cultural memory amongst white Melburnians goes back about five minutes, but Facebook is forever.

1 comment:

  1. Its like you look into my soul and describe the things that I like.